December 14, 2017 Published in Other News, Traffic & Transportation

AAA: Record-Breaking 107 Million Americans To Celebrate Holidays Away From Home

‘Tis the season to traditionally spend with family and friends and this year Americans are traveling in record numbers. In the Washington metro area 2,691,900 million people are projected to travel, which is a 3.5% increase in travel volume over 2016. It is the highest year-end travel volume on record, AAA projects. Of those, 2.4 million people are projected to drive, 148,600 people are projected to fly and 101,600 people are projected to travel by trains, buses and cruise ships.

Nationally, the travel forecast is equally robust. AAA forecasts 107.3 million Americans, or one third of total U.S. population of 326.4 million will travel during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1. This will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and a 3.1% increase in travel volume compared with 2016. 2017 marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25%.

“Forty-four percent of the Washington metro area’s 6,131,977 residents plan to take a trip for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday travel period with 91% of them traveling by vehicle,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The busiest travel days will be Dec. 20 and 21 during rush hour as holiday travelers and people going home from work converge on local highways. An additional 148,600 area persons are projected to depart on their holiday trips by air as well as a projected 101,600 people traveling by trains, buses and cruise ships.”

2017 Christmas/New Year’s Travel Projections


Total Travel & Percentage

Automobile Travel & Percentage

Air Travel & Percentage

Other Modes of Travel & Percentage

Washington Metro Area

2,691,900 area travelers

Up 3.5% from 2,601,300 people in 2016.

2,441,800 persons

(91% of travelers)

Up 3.4% from 2,360,600 people in 2016.

148,600 persons

(6% of travelers)

Up 4.1% from 142,700 people in 2016.

101,600 persons

(4% of travelers)

Up 3.7% from 98,000 people in 2016.


107.3 million Americans

Up 3.1% from 104.2 million people in 2016.

97.4 million Americans

(91% of all travelers)

Up 3% from 94.5 million people in 2016.

6.4 million Americans

(6% of travelers)

Up 4.1% from 6.1 million people in 2016.

3.6 million Americans

(3% of travelers)

Up 2.2% from 3.5 people in 2016.

For the 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA, predicts travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.

“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving – and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”

By the Numbers: 2017 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Via Roadways: A projected 2,441,800 Washington metro residents plan to travel to their year-end holiday destination by automobile, an increase of 3.4% from the 2,360,600 area residents who traveled by automobile in 2016. 
  • By Air: A projected 148,600 Washington area residents plan to fly to their holiday destination, which is an increase of 4.1% over the 142,700 people who flew in 2016.
  • Via Other Modes: The number of local residents traveling by trains, buses and other modes of transportation is forecast to increase by 3.7% to 101,600 persons, in comparison to 98,000 locals in 2016.
  • Automobiles: The majority of travelers – 97.4 million – will hit the road (a 3% year-over-year increase).
  • Planes: 6.4 million people will travel by air, a 4.1% increase and the fourth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
  • Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.2% to 3.6 million.

Holiday Headache Hotspots

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For example, drivers in New York City could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”

Worst Days/Times to Travel

Metro Area

Worst Day for Travel

Worst Time for Travel

Delay Multiplier

New York, NY

Wednesday, Dec. 20

3:30 – 5:30 PM


Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, Dec. 20

3:30 – 6:00 PM


Washington, DC

Thursday, Dec. 21

3:00 – 6:00 PM


San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, Dec. 20

3:00 – 5:30 PM


Chicago, IL

Thursday, Dec. 21

4:00 – 6:00 PM


Boston, MA

Thursday, Dec. 21

2:30 – 4:30 PM


Seattle, WA

Thursday, Dec. 20

4:00 – 6:00 PM


Atlanta, GA

Thursday, Dec. 21

4:30 – 6:30 PM


Houston, TX

Wednesday, Dec. 20

5:30 – 7:30 PM


Detroit, MI

Thursday, Dec. 21

3:00 – 5:30 PM


Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.

Pricey pump prices to decrease

The 91% of holiday travelers choosing to drive will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014. This December’s national average price is $2.47 (Dec. 1-13), which is 28 cents more than last December. The good news is that AAA does expect the average to drop at least another five cents by year-end, saving motorists a few pennies at the pump. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, Washington, DC’s gas price average was $2.69 and the Washington metro area’s gas price average was $2.45.

Airfare and hotel rates trend cheaper, car rentals increase year-over-year

Holiday airfares are nearly 20% cheaper than last year. At $165, the average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, 2017 airfares are 5% less expensive compared to 2016. Overall, competition, capacity over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline. Travelers can also find savings at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels. On average, a Three Diamond hotel nightly rate is $156, a two percent year-over-year decrease. The Two Diamond nightly average rate is $121, a five percent decrease from last year.

Similar to Thanksgiving, car rental rates are more expensive on the year. At $74, the daily car rental rate increased 11%. This sets a new five-year record high rate for year-end holiday travel. The increase is on par with the rate increases seen at Thanksgiving.

In Washington, DC, AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to decrease by 6%, with travelers spending an average of $114 per night as compared to $121 in 2016. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel increased with an average nightly cost of $106 as compared to $101 in 2016. Daily car rental rates are expected to average $104, a 39% increase as compared to $75 in 2016. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows the lowest round trip from Atlanta to Washington, DC is 53% higher this year at $156, a flight from Boston to Washington increased by 22% to $155, a flight from New York to Washington decreased 65% to $118, and a flight from Washington to Las Vegas decreased 62% to $117.

Top 10 Year-End Holiday Travel Destinations
For a second year, Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on bookings. Warmer weather destinations reign supreme in winter months with Cancun, Kahului (Maui) and Montego Bay gaining in popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. Cancun, Mexico
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Kahului (Maui), Hawaii
  6. Montego Bay, Jamaica
  7. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  8. Miami, Florida
  9. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  10. New York City, NY

Travel Tip: Airports will be busy and security lines may be longer than usual around the holidays. Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to the scheduled departure of their flight. During peak travel times, contact your airline for guidance, as it may be necessary to arrive even earlier. This time of year travelers need to also be aware of potential weather delays. Make sure to check flight status regularly before traveling to the airport. To expedite travel, AAA recommends enrolling in programs such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.

Lockouts, flat tires to strand nearly one million motorists
The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations, and AAA expects to rescue nearly one million (901,600) motorists. This includes approximately 1,700 drivers in Washington, DC, 13,300 travelers in Maryland and 10,000 people in Virginia. Car battery-related issues, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA is called for roadside assistance over the holidays. For members in need of roadside assistance, download the AAA Mobile app, visit or call 1-800-AAA-HELP. For added convenience, Wazers can now request AAA roadside assistance directly from the Waze app by tapping the Report menu. 

Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Stop by a trusted repair shop, such as one of AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Car Care Centers or one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America, for an inspection. In case of an emergency, be prepared by keeping a cell phone and charger with you at all times. Carry an emergency kit with a flashlight, extra batteries, warning devices such as flares or reflective triangles, jumper cables, a first-aid kit and extra water.

Travel Tip: Get plenty of rest before setting out on a holiday road trip and schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles to remain alert and avoid driving drowsy. Also, be aware of the dangers of driving distracted. Drivers should designate a passenger to serve as their official text messenger and navigator.

Download the AAA Mobile app before your holiday getaway
Before heading out on your year-end holiday road trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find nearly 59,000 AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Inspected & Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.


Comments are closed.